a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 17: Pain and Perseverance
Race forced himself to run as far and as fast as he could. He'd paced himself until he was sure the wyvern had gotten airborne, and then opened up into an all-out pelt. He reached the little grove of trees just as she was diving at him. Hampered by her own altitude, the wyvern had no hope of following him into the trees on wing. She swooped upward gracefully, looping over to hover midair in front of the grove, either waiting for him to come out the other side or debating whether going after him on foot would be prudent.
To her back was another small, wooded glade. Race chuckled to himself. He had her.
"NOW! HIT HER!" he yelled, out of breath though he was.
The archers, hidden in the woods at Mayaki's back, took aim at the vulnerable target presented before them.
* * * * *
Zelgaddis and Xellos cleared the trees just in time to see the arrows loose and fly toward the rose-colored wyvern. "No!" Zelgaddis screamed.
Mayaki heard him and turned her head in time to see the first of the arrows whiz past in her vision. *Arrow?* she thought, just as another ripped through her right wingsail and a third plunged deep into her back. She screamed in agony and fell. Her wings were useless... the right one refused to cup the air properly with a hole torn through it, and the left one shot hot streams of pure pain into her every time she tried to move it. *I'm dying...* she thought coherently as she fell, her body changing back to human shape of its own accord just before her impact.
"Mayaki!" Zelgaddis screamed, watching her plummet. His cry was quickly echoed by Xellos.
"Mayaki!" The two of them paused for a split second to stare at each other, then they shouted at her in unison. "Mayaki!" And they began running towards the falling girl.
*Ground,* she thought just before she hit. She landed on one side and bonelessly toppled onto her stomach. Her face was pushed into the ground at an angle with one eye to the dirt, though she could see hazily through the other. Her bangs made little russet-burgundy bands through her vision as they blew across her face in the light wind. *Is this what it feels like to die?* the still lucid parts of her mind asked. Things were foggy, all around her. She couldn't move, or didn't want to even if she could. The arrow that had brought her down stuck out of her back at a strange angle. It hurt her to breathe, so she didn't want to do that very much either, even though her lungs cried out for new air. *Pain,* she thought on a baser level. *Hurts...*
She barely registered the image of Zelgaddis running up to her, Xellos right beside him in the air. "Mayaki!" Zel cried, tilting her up. Her jaw dropped open with a gasp as she was shifted and burning needles seared through her organs. *painpainpainpainpainPAINPAINPAINPAINMAKEITSTOP!*
"Zel... hurts..." she barely whispered.
"It's all right... you'll be okay. Let me heal you." He summoned the spell and declared, "Healing," pressing his hand to the bleeding wound. Mayaki sat up as if a pole had been driven into her spine and screamed bloody murder.
"Stop! Stop!" Xellos demanded. "Idiot! You're healing her right into the arrowhead. Let me see her!" Zelgaddis blinked in shock and obediently moved out of the way for Xellos to tend her, his only thought now for saving her life, even if it meant giving her to the Mazoku. Xellos carefully rested her against his lap as he knelt down, examining the arrow. "Too far in to back it out," he decided, without any of his normal amusement. "It'll have to go all the way through." He braced one fist on the arrow and broke the end off with his other hand. Mayaki whimpered loudly as her insides took some of the recoil. "Easy, little bird, the worst isn't over yet..." He turned to Zelgaddis. "be ready to heal her as soon as it's out," he said sternly.
"Right," Zel replied, equally serious, readying the spell.
Xellos stroked Mayaki's hair out of her face. "Mayaki, I want you to brace yourself as much as you can, darling, because this is going to hurt like holy hell. All right?" Mayaki gave a weak nod as Xellos took the broken shaft of the arrow in both hands, setting his staff aside. Then he used all his strength to force the arrow the rest of the way through her body, and out through her chest. She screamed like she was being burned alive as Xellos plunged the arrow deeper. Swift as the motion was, the pain made if feel like an eternity before the arrow finished passing through her vital organs and out between her lower ribs, scraping against the bone. Blood flowed freely from the new wound as Xellos grabbed the head of the arrow and pulled the shaft out. "Got it!" he shouted.
Zelgaddis balled his stone hands together and smashed Xellos in the face with them like a club. The Mazoku pitched over backward, landing in the dust a few feet away. He didn't move for a few moments, then sat up, rubbing his jaw sullenly.
Zel didn't know what had possessed him to do it, really. The monster was causing Mayaki pain, and somehow it had to be stopped. Stopping her pain was top priority. He focused his energy on the healing spell.
He concentrated and recited the spell , asking that the earth, mother of all, would grant strength and healing for Mayaki. "Healing," he cast quietly, guiding the power into the arrow's entry wound. The pain in her face gradually eased as the wound healed and closed up, good as new. Her breathing became more steady and the color returned to her cheeks.
She looked up into Zelgaddis's worried face, and it was only then that she realized he was holding her. One arm cradled her gently and supported her head as her body rested across his lap. *Oh, if circumstances were better, Zel* she thought to herself. *You are handy to have around, though.* She sat up and gave him a grateful hug, which he returned carefully, sighing with relief.
At least, she thought it might have been relief.
"Easy now... Are you all right?"
Xellos appeared, leaning over Zel's left shoulder. "Well, I think so, but that was one heck of a punch you gave me with those stone fists of yours, Rocky. It's a good thing for you I like pain."
Zelgaddis's expression changed from caring to annoyed. "I wasn't talking to you."
Mayaki laughed joyfully, sitting up on her knees to throw her arms around the Mazoku. "Xellos!" she cried as she embraced him gleefully.
He snickered a little. "You and I are going to have to have a word about defense stratagems, my dear."
He put his arm around her waist. "Well, I'll admit I am relieved that you're all right," he whispered, tilting her chin up to meet his eyes. "Wyverns are so hard to find these days..."
Zelgaddis meant to pull Mayaki away from Xellos... her really did, but there was something that wouldn't allow him to...
His jaw gaped open, but there were no words there... just a very large lump in the middle of his throat. She was in love with Xellos. Xellos! The damn demon always had to ruin his life in one way or another...
It wasn't just that, though. It was injury enough, but... she had lied to him. Mayaki, he told himself, was a Mazoku, just like Xellos, no matter how many times she denied it or said she would never work with him... and she'd fallen for the conniving monster. A mournful sadness overwhelmed Zel at that moment so that he couldn't do anything to react except turn away so he wouldn't have to see any more. Mayaki's musical laughter reached his ears, and he clenched his eyes and fists, trying to block out the whole world.
"Yes, it still hurts, but only a little. I'll be all right soon..."
Xellos nodded. "Stay here, darling," Xellos grinned, giving Mayaki a quick wink and a peck on the lips. "There's something I have to attend to. Back before long!" He grabbed his staff and floated up in the air, looking back the way they'd come, at the little grove of trees where the archers were hidden. "Gaav Flare," he commanded darkly, aiming a finger at the glade. He appreciated the irony of using that particular spell as the three fuchsia bolts shot away from his hand, writhing and twisting around each other. Xellos had never cared for Gaav. He was a shortsighted fool with no sense of humor and bad taste. Nevertheless, he thought, for the spell to be working, Gaav's spirit must have been reincarnated. Oh well. Either way, this would be entertaining.
The flare spell flew into the trees, igniting the entire area as the bolts hit. If the archers had the lack of sense to stay there, they had no hope of escaping now. Xellos didn't particularly care about them; one rarely cares about the hired help. It was the head of the snake you had to worry about. The one he was after had fled in the other direction. The Mazoku could trace exactly where he had gone too, leaving behind a clear, bright trail of anger, hate, and revenge. The demon could all but see every footprint Race had left behind. He disappeared, following the path from the Astral Plane.
* * * * *
Lina and Amelia, with Gourry in tow between them, insisting that he was falling, soared up over the burning trees as Amelia cast a Diem Wing bubble around them.
"There, Miss Lina!" Amelia pointed, spotting Zelgaddis and Mayaki. They were both staring at the destruction the Gaav Flare had done, Zel with a horrified look and Mayaki with a disturbing smirk. The bubble floated easily down to the ground and disappeared. Lina trotted over to Zelgaddis as Amelia tried to convince Gourry that they were on the ground again.
"There you guys are! What happened? What was that big explosion?"
Zel continued to stare mournfully, hatefully, at the fire. "Xellos," he said flatly.
Race cackled as he tore down the road. "I've done it! I've done it this time! I saw her fall! There's no way she could survive that! Race Quim has slain the wyvern! Hahahaha!!"
"Are you quite sure about that, Mr. Quim?" an entertained voice asked from overhead as someone sitting on a tree branch hailed him. Race stopped running and peered up at the silhouetted figure curiously.
"Really, if you're going to start something, you should at least stick around until things are finished. You've almost killed Miss Sora three times now. In my book, that's strike three. You are out, Mr. Quim." Xellos hopped down from the tree.
Race took a cautious step backward, trying to catch his breath. "You're that troublesome Mazoku she travels with, aren't you?"
Xellos's violet eyes glimmered at him malevolently. "The little wyvern is very dear to me, you know. I don't appreciate your efforts to kill her." Race's hand dropped to the hilt of his sword. Xellos caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. "I wouldn't bother, if I were you. We both know that it would be futile since I am a monster."
Race growled. "What do you want from me, then? Assuming you wanted to kill me, you'd have done it by now."
Xellos gave him a lopsided grin. "Just wanted to offer some advice," he smirked.
"And what advice could that be?" Race asked cockily, putting his hands on his hips.
"That it is very bad luck to hurt a Mazoku's girlfriend."
Race nodded smugly. "I'll keep that in mind. Does this mean you aren't going to attack me, then?"
The Mazoku chuckled darkly. "I always give my enemies fair warning before I do," he said.
Race shrugged and strode past him as Xellos bowed from his tree branch sarcastically. The human let out a mental sigh of relief, keeping his outward composure, but inwardly thanking that gods that he had come out of it in one piece.
With a low laugh, Xellos began walking in the other direction, toward Mayaki and the rest. When he was about a hundred yards or so away from the man, he stopped and turned, aiming the red crystal at the end of his staff at Race. "Blast Bomb," he said quietly. A pinpoint-thin line of red energy surged out from the crystal, closing the distance between Xellos and Race in less than a second. Race screamed once before he was drowned out and hidden by the rapidfire burst of black and yellow explosions.
Xellos didn't have to look back to know that Race Quim was no more. In fact, with the power of that spell, anyone looking for the bandit leader would be hard-pressed to find so much as a trace of him in the destroyed surrounding wood or the large crater that had taken the place of the road in that spot. The demon priest chuckled, continuing to walk calmly away. "What a fool," he said to himself. "Terrible luck that. Just awful. Isn't my fault he couldn't recognize fair warning when it was given to him. How pathetic. Heh."
* * * * *
Every head in the group jerked around at the sound of the nearby explosion. Most of them had expressions of shock... all except Mayaki, who smiled wickedly. Inwardly, she cackled to herself. Death, destruction, murder, evil! Tonight she and Xellos would be dancing on that idiot Quim's grave!
Offhand, she wondered if Zelas would like her... if she really was evil enough. She felt evil, but there was still some doubt in her mind about exactly how much evil there was in her, or could be. After all, she'd only killed half a dozen men and frightened a man she'd blinded. Most of it had been self-defense, at that. She wasn't really sure if that qualified at all. Still, she was soaking up negative energy like a starving woman... all the anger, hate, and pain she ran into. And there was...
...sadness. An overwhelming amount of woe and remorse, heartbrokenness. She could feel it pouring off Zelgaddis in rivers. She'd gotten under that stony skin of his and hurt him without even really knowing she had. *Ho-hum, more's the pity,* she thought drolly, letting him suffer this one out alone, and meanwhile absorbing his emotions. Tasty.
Xellos appeared, strolling casually down the road toward them. He seemed especially smug as he marched dutifully up to them. Lina jumped on him the minute he reached them. "What did you do, Xellos?" Her tone was anything but playful.
He chuckled lowly and spoke in an evil tone. "Race Quim won't be bothering us again anytime soon." His eyes, little more than slits, glimmered.
"What did you do?" Lina repeated with emphasis.
Xellos floated up into the air, reclining as easily as if he was in a chair, and put his hands behind his head. "I took care of it, of course."
Lina clenched her fists, growling at him. Behind her, Amelia and Gourry looked equally confused... which was either a great compliment to Gourry or a great discredit to Amelia. Zelgaddis had stood up and was walking back the way they'd come, mostly just to avoid the pair of Mazoku, but also to hide his feelings from the rest of the group. He felt bad enough without earning their sympathies as well. Heartbreak was a difficult emotion to choke down.
Mayaki, on the other hand, didn't seem to care a lick. Her lips curled into a twisted smile as her golden eyes glittered. She was a Mazoku, evil had been done, and all was well with the world.
Meanwhile the little sorceress berated Xellos. "I don't believe you! You don't care about anything, do you? Not who you hurt or kill or what you destroy or anything!"
"Ordinarily, that would be the case, Lina," he smirked down at her. "But there is someone I do care about, hard as that must be for you to believe."
Lina was floored. "What?!"
Gourry piped up. "Who?"
"That... is a secret," he quipped, floating even higher above their heads. Mayaki gazed at him with a sense of triumph. He met her eyes and grinned wider. "Come on, darling. I think it's about time we left."
Mayaki ran a couple of steps and sprang into the air, soaring up to Xellos's side. It had been hard to learn at first, but with a little practice, she had found it to be almost natural... she could get used to it after a while. She even did a spin on the way up, she was so excited. Everyone gasped, staring slack-jawed at her.
"Mayaki!" Lina breathed in shock.
"Miss Mayaki! How could you?" Amelia complained.
Mayaki laughed in a way that sent shivers down everyone's spine. "This? Oh, but it was so easy, being that I'm a Mazoku anyway. I just needed a little... encouragement from Xellos to live up to my full potential."
"Mayaki, I know you're not evil underneath. Come back down ant let Amelia do a de-possession spell on you!" Lina pleaded.
The wyvern girl looked at her fingernails boredly and leaned back on the air. "Terribly sorry, Miss Lina, but I've got more important things to do, cooking for you losers not being one of them.
"Mayaki," Gourry said, awed.
Amelia shrank back, looking ready to cry. Her lip quavered. "Miss Mayaki, this is all wrong! Why are you doing this? You're not evil!"
"And you know me so well, Princess Pest?"
The little justice crusader burst into tears. "I know I'd never forgive myself if I just let you go off with Mister Xellos because Mister Zelgaddis loves you!"
Something inside Mayaki pressed her not to say anything, but she ignored it and spat out what she had to say. "Amelia, you are a little fool, aren't you? Wanting something for Zelgaddis even though it ruins your own chance at him. How very quaint. And how very stupid of you."
Zelgaddis finally turned around. "Mayaki," he said softly.
Tears flowed freely down Amelia's cheeks. "I don't care if I don't get what I want, as long as Mister Zelgaddis is happy!"
Zelgaddis heard Amelia's words. If he hadn't been so focused on his love for Mayaki, they might have meant more.
"Aww, isn't that noble? And sickening," she added. Beside her, Xellos nodded with approval. Amelia simply wept, not having anything else to say.
"Mayaki, stop this." Zel stared up at her, eyes shining with unshed tears.
"Oh, it's you, Zelgaddis! How nice of you to show up for my fare-thee-well party! I admit, you are the most fun to play with, darling." Zel clenched a fist and glared at her. "You really didn't know? For as close as you kept getting, I thought you almost understood!"
"You told me you would never betray your human nature..."
She laughed irritatingly. "I lied. Well, it may have been the truth at the time, but I've found another path to follow."
"Traitor..." he whispered, deeply hurt.
"Really, I am sorry," she said sarcastically while twiddling with one of her knives. "It's a pity things couldn't work out better for us. Oh, and you were right about one thing..." She turned her head and narrowed her eyes slyly at him. "I am a Mazoku like Xellos."
Zel seemed rooted in place. Lina ran up to defend him. "Stop it, Mayaki! Just shut up! Haven't you hurt him enough?"
*Yes, Mayaki, stop,* her conscience begged. She forced it down by soaking up some of the pain she'd caused. "Oh, fine. Off to Wolfpack Island, then," she chirped, gliding down to look Zelgaddis in the face. "Good luck finding your cure, sweetheart." Then she zipped off before he could get a swing in at her.
Zel broke through his frozen shock and screamed with fury. "Elmekia Lance!" he cast, voice cracking halfway through. The spell shot away from his hand at her, but she easily hovered away from it, his aim suffering with his anger.
"Was that meant for me, Zelgaddis? I suppose that means our relationship is over." She quirked her eyes over to Xellos, who was patiently enjoying the torment she was dishing out. "I don't think we're welcome anymore, sweet."
"Yes, such a shame," he echoed with a grin. "Ah well. Off we go. Ta-ta, Lina!" Mayaki disappeared, followed a second later by her mentor.
"Grr.. Xellos!!" Lina shouted after them.
"Damn you!" Zelgaddis added. "Damn you both!" He collapsed to his knees in the road, staring mournfully after them. After a while, the reality that she wasn't coming back sunk in, and he dropped his eyes.
Amelia watched him silently holding everything in. Her brow furrowed sympathetically. "Mister Zelgaddis..." she started, stepping toward him, but there was an arm in her way.
"Hold it, Amelia," Lina scolded softly. "I think Zel needs some time alone right now."
"Oh," she mumbled in response, letting the sorceress all but push her along, leaving the chimaera to himself. "Mister Zelgaddis..." she whispered over her shoulder at him.
Disclaimer in short: Slayers and related characters aren't mine. Mayaki and various other incidental characters are.
Thanks for reading! Please leave me some feedback; I live and thrive on criticism! (not to mention, I'm a perfectionist. ;)